# Thread: Can a planet have seasons somewhat like Game of Thrones?

1. Im watching Game of Thrones which in interesting so far, but Im curious who type of planetary orbit and rotation,
could produce very long seasons that last several years each? (if at all possible)

I havent read the book(s?) and dont know if a year is a measure of time similar to an earth year while not representing an actual complete orbit around the sun,
or if it is indeed an orbit around the sun.

I thought that you could get long seasons if a planet was in a wider orbit than earth around a larger star than the sun then it could produce long season.
Is it possible for a planet to rotate at a certain angle and to have that axis rotate too?

2.

3. Seasons on Earth result because of the axial tilt and the changing angel that sunlight hits us during the year. On a planet that was wobbling around the centre point on the axis of rotation, it could conceivably mean that angles and subsequently seasons are maintained for longer periods. Our axis wobbles too, but to a small degree.

4. Okay, I'm not sure exactly how long you mean by "several years" , but here's a go.

Let's assume a star twice as massive as the Sun. this puts it somewhere in the F to A class borderline. It will ~11 time more luminous than the Sun, meaning our planet will have to orbit ~3.3 times further away in order to get the same light levels as the Earth. At this distance, and with the mass of the star, this gives an orbital period of over 4 years.

There are some problems however. One is that this class of star burns hotter and thus will put out a lot more UV light. Better stock up on Sun screen. The other is that the high luminosity also means that the star goes through its fuel faster. Such a star would generally have a lifetime of ~1.8 Gy, compared to our Sun's 10 Gy. This is an fairy short time and is ~ 2/5 the present age of the Earth. One has to wonder if that would be enough time for complex life to evolve.

As to the axis wobble idea. This known as precession and is caused by a force that is trying to change the axis of rotation, With the Earth this is primarily due to the Moon trying to align the Earth's spin with its own orbit. The problem with this is that the "wobble" rotates in the opposite direction as the spin. In order for it to increase the seasonal year it has to rotate in the same direction as the orbit. This would require the planet to rotate retrograde, which would need explaining.

Also, the rate of precession is determined by the force and rate of spin. Assuming a planet of similar mass and spin as the Earth, the precession rate would have to be determined by this force. In order for the precession to increase the seasons by the same factor of 4 as above, the precession period would have to be 1.33 of that of of the orbital period. Given that the precession period is inversely proportional to the force, you would need a force some 19,500 times that exerted by the Moon. Not even considering what kind of body could provide this much force, considering that the Moon's force is tidal in nature, you would have tidal forces of equal magnitude acting on your planet, giving a whole new meaning to the term "high tide".

All in all, it is probably best to just accept that Game of Thrones is a fantasy and not try to come up with a scientific rationale for it.

5. All in all, it is probably best to just accept that Game of Thrones is a fantasy and not try to come up with a scientific rationale for it.

I was curious as to if its possible or not, but, Good point nonetheless

6. I've wondered about this myself. Here are some ideas.

1) What about having another planet between the Game of Thrones planet and its sun? If both planets were in moving in the same direction at slightly different speeds, then the inner planet could block the sun for multiple years.

2) If the Game of Thrones planet orbited around dual suns in a figure eight pattern. At the point that it is between both stars, and farthest away from both, winter could be long and harsh. The irregular seasons could be caused by the distance between the stars as they rotate each other.

3) If the Game of Thrones planet was actually a slow moving moon of a larger planet. That might work too.

7. Originally Posted by bionichead
I've wondered about this myself. Here are some ideas.

1) What about having another planet between the Game of Thrones planet and its sun? If both planets were in moving in the same direction at slightly different speeds, then the inner planet could block the sun for multiple years.
Any such planet would have to have an orbit that was almost exactly the same distance from the Sun as the Game of Thrones planet. They would have to be so close to the same orbit that they would pass within each other's hill spheres, resulting in a major perturbation of both of their orbits. They would pass that close once and then never again. Besides. Even if you could keep such close orbits stable, The periods of one planet blocking the other would be spread apart by thousands of years.

2) If the Game of Thrones planet orbited around dual suns in a figure eight pattern. At the point that it is between both stars, and farthest away from both, winter could be long and harsh. The irregular seasons could be caused by the distance between the stars as they rotate each other.
Even if such an orbit was stable enough to maintain life on the planet, then at the same time, you would have no night as each Sun would be shining on opposite sides the the planet. Neither can you have the Sun's be so far away as to cast little light on the planet at this point because then you would have perpetual night, and more than just a "harsh" winter.

3) If the Game of Thrones planet was actually a slow moving moon of a larger planet. That might work too.
No it wouldn't. For one, a moon orbiting a planet can't have a period more more than ~0.577 that of the planet's orbit around the star. A longer period would put it outside the Hill sphere and it would go into an independent orbit around the star. This would give you at most a synodic period of 1.366 of a year. Seasons due to axial tilt will still be tied to the planet's orbit around the Star, so the period of the moon has no effect. The only possible effect would be the eclipsing of the sun by the planet. However, the radius of the moon's orbit will be so large, that even a gas giant like Jupiter would have such a small angular size that it would block any significant amount of the Stars light.

8. I watched the first season of Game of Thrones - if there was any real description of how the seasons worked it must have slipped past me. I recall a description of past Winters of varying lengths and intensity and - whether it was my imagination filling in details or it was something I'd picked up subliminally - I got left with the impression of a relatively normal cycle of seasons overlaid by periodic multiyear periods of extreme cold; i.e. ordinary short winters vs extreme long Winters that included (IIRC) 'years' of darkness. A star with variable output might work better, if we insist on a superficially rational seeming explanation, than an odd orbit.

What will give - depending on latitude - 2 summers and 2 winters each year, is an orbit like Uranus with an extreme axial tilt. The equatorial zone extends nearly to the poles. Within the equatorial band the sun passes directly overhead - with maximum insolation - twice each year.

9. Or just as likely, a planet who's obliquity (tilt) varies. If the pole of the earth was pointing along the plane of the ecliptic, one whole hemisphere would many months with no sun at all, like only the polar regions get now. So winter would be more intense and last longer, as would summer in the other hemisphere (See Uranus). The equatorial regions would then be relatively temperate most times. Add in some eccentricity to the orbit, and the effects would be amplified.

10. Yes, a Uranus-like tilt plus an eccentric orbit and you would get some interesting seasonal variations - but it would still be predictably regular unless something else keeps changing. A serious amount of precession giving varying obliquity? I recall a SF novel "Warriors of Dawn" (I think) by MA Foster that had a planet with extreme axial tilt - which, if you weren't at high latitudes or on the equator, went through little summer, little winter, long summer and long winter. Near the equator the variations would even out into two equal summers and two equal winters. I don't know that the seasons of a fantasy world like Game of Thrones' need any semblance of logic or that it needs to be about it's orbital characteristics if anyone insists on it. Periodic volcanic activity sending cooling aerosols into the atmosphere would be as good as anything.

11. periodic volcanic activity sending cooling aerosols into the atmosphere would be as good as anything.

interesting, I had not though about that, further indications it was worth asking

12. I contemplated this very subject. The premise postulates humans residing on a planet with these vague and awkward "seasons". It presupposes things that look like magic accounting for a number of phenomena, ie White walker reanimated corposes, dragons, other "magics". It would seems to me that an earth flora/fauna seeding project sent out to "seed" as many planets as possible could produce such culture and envrionmental factors shape it, provided the planet could sustain life, either with artifical help or naturally. A bioengineer(s) playing "god(s)" creating this "game" to be played out for their amusement?
We do not know enough about the "seasons" to form a hypothesis to test whether such a planet could exist. If we did we could decide whether human life and such flora and fauna could exist. I think that it could not evolve naturally but that is just a guess.
I do not know whether or not the "Goldilocks Zone" theory is correct or not. If it is then the case for such a planet is very weak, if not highly unlikely.
The theory is conjecture at best. The only way to test it is to find life or sentient life supporting life outside the zone that seemed to have evolved naturally and then the theory would be invalidated.

Game of Thrones is pure fantasy and nicely done. To stretch it outside its context is an interesting mental excercise but does little to advance us as a species. A scientific explantion would likely spol the fun but that in and of itself could be someone's idea of fun.

If said planet could exist the first question is "why"? The only answer would be by random chance, i.e. either "seeding" of some sort or occuring in nature because why would one intentionally make such a thing?

13. Could always launch a nuke into the atmosphere, inducing a several year long nuclear winter. Snow boarders would rejoice, and the winter olympics would be much more competitive.

14. Could always launch a nuke into the atmosphere, inducing a several year long nuclear winter. Snow boarders would rejoice, and the winter olympics would be much more competitive.
Only in the first year. Even athletes have to eat and a several year long nuclear (or any other sort) winter is not congenial to growing crops or feed for livestock.

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